It’s Thursday, July 13, 2023, and National French Fry Day (one wonders why they’re celebrating only a single fry when nobody eats just one?).
Beanee Weanee (beans ‘n’ franks) available in a 12-pack on Amazon:
If you remember how canned beans figured in Hemingway’s story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” pat yourself on the back.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the July 13 Wikipedia page.
*The NATO summit in Lithuania is now over, with firm support for Ukraine as a future member, but not pathway or timetable as to when that would happen.
Over the course of a two-day summit in Lithuania, the leaders of NATO’s 31 member nations projected unity in their support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s bloody invasion, promising new military support and making the strongest pledges yet that Kyiv would become a member — though they provided no clarity on when and how exactly it would happen.
The consensus on Ukraine’s eventual membership and the agreement forged on the eve of the NATO gathering to clear the way to make Sweden the alliance’s 32nd member were significant successes. But the summit also reflected the diplomatic challenges inherent within an alliance that spans the Atlantic Ocean and now borders a war zone.
The ambiguous diplomatic language in the summit’s final communiqué on Ukraine — an invitation will be extended “when allies agree and conditions are met,” leaving unsaid the conditions — did not disguise some serious strains among alliance members. And President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in his first public remarks since backing Sweden’s bid for admission to the alliance, tempered expectations that he would swiftly push the approval through the Turkish Parliament.
. . .President Biden concluded a meeting of the NATO allies on Wednesday in Vilnius with an address to Lithuanians, and to the world, comparing the battle to expel Russia from Ukrainian territory with the Cold War struggle for freedom in Europe, and promising “we will not waver” no matter how long the war continued.
His speech seemed to be preparing Americans and his NATO allies for a confrontation that could go on for years, putting it in the context of momentous conflicts of the past. And he cast it as a test of wills with the Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, who has shown no interest in giving up on an invasion that has not gone according to plan, but has locked him in a war of attrition.
Well, that’s depressing. A long, drawn-out war with NATO supplying an infinite supply of munitions. And how will it come out? At least Zelensky got over his temporary tantrum about the nebulous timeline:
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine stressed his gratitude for NATO’s military support, seeking to move past a dispute over when his country would be invited to join the alliance.
He’s a good man.
*From reader Ken:
Although the age at which a teenager in Mississippi can consent to engage in sexual intercourse with an adult is 16, the Mississippi legislature has seen fit to prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from accessing digital materials through school and public libraries without express parental consent (and not even with parental consent unless the libraries have certified that their digital collections contain no materials that fall into Mississippi’s overly restrictive definition of “obscenity”).
Well, it’s somewhat restrictive, and in some ways proper: it forbids, for instance the dissemination of child pornography, but it also won’t allow students access to “sexually oriented materials”, and here’s the definition:
[A]ny material is sexually oriented if the material contains representations or descriptions, actual or simulated, of masturbation, sodomy, excretory functions, lewd exhibition of the genitals or female breasts, sadomasochistic abuse (for the purpose of sexual stimulation or gratification), homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or the breast or breasts of a female for the purpose of sexual stimulation, gratification or perversion.”
The article at Book Riot adds this:
By definition, any vendor is out of compliance by simply having materials available in their system which depict sexual reproduction or queerness in any capacity. Images of nude female breasts–which are often part of sexual education, reproductive education, and/or biology and anatomy books written for those under the age of 18–would be out of compliance with the law.
But of course the kids don’t want to look at anatomy lessons; they want porn!
The problem, I gather is somehow restricting student access to these materials, which seems to be a technical problem for the e-platform (“the vendor”):
Platforms like Hoopla and Overdrive are not set up to create systems which change access based on age or varying laws by municipality. Library staff are also unable to preview and rate every item available within such platforms, leading to a position to shut down access all together.
It is, of course, one more step toward killing public goods like libraries and one more step toward creating systems wherein young people in some states are granted access to a world of knowledge and resources and young people in other states are shut out entirely.
My view is that if you’re old enough to have legal sex, you’re old enough to view porn. But in schools? I’m not sure what I think about that, since you’re supposed to be using the library for educational purposes. Readers are welcome to weigh in here?
*According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration is doing a tolerably good job with immigration at the border with Mexico, and things have quieted down considerably.
On the border bridge from Mexico, about 200 asylum seekers lined up on a recent morning with their phones open to a Customs and Border Protection mobile app, ready for appointments at a reception hall on the U.S. side.
Now the administration is allowing tens of thousands of migrants to enter the United States legally each month through the mobile app CBP One, while those who don’t follow the rules face ramped-up deportations and tougher penalties.
. . .The preliminary result is a nearly 70 percent drop in illegal entries since early May, according to the latest U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. After two years of record crossings and crisis-level strains, the Biden administration appears to have better control over the southern border than at any point since early 2021.
The president’s critics continue to depict his border policies as too permissive — geared more toward accommodating mass migration than deterrence. But the decline in illegal crossings undermines a key line of attack for President Biden’s Republican critics and bolsters Democrats’ argument that the pandemic expulsion policy was partly to blame for record numbers of border arrests.
So far, so good. The Republicans are still suing the administration over this policy, and, on the other side, immigrant advocacy groups are suing and administration to stop cracking down on immigrants who enter illegally. This looks like a “wait and see” situation to me, though things aren’t nearly as chaotic as they were a few months ago.
*Speaking of Biden, he’s confected a backdoor plan to get around the Supreme Court’s ruling that he can’t cancel student loan debt. But this plan apprently does just that for many people.
The Biden administration calls it a “student loan safety net.” Opponents call it a backdoor attempt to make college free. And it could be the next battleground in the legal fight over student loan relief.
Starting this summer, millions of Americans with student loans will be able to enroll in a new repayment plan that offers some of the most lenient terms ever. Interest won’t pile up as long as borrowers make regular payments. Millions of people will have monthly payments reduced to $0. And in as little as 10 years, any remaining debt will be canceled.
It’s known as the SAVE Plan, and although it was announced last year, it has mostly been overshadowed by President Joe Biden’s proposal for mass student loan cancellation. But now, after the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s forgiveness plan, the repayment option is taking center stage.
. . .The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated over the next decade the plan would cost $230 billion, which would be even higher now that the forgiveness plan has been struck down. Estimates from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania put the cost at up to $361 billion.
Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision on cancellation, some opponents say it’s a matter of time before the repayment plan also faces a legal challenge.
Here are a few more details:
Right away, more people will be eligible for $0 payments. The new plan won’t require borrowers to make payments if they earn less than 225% of the federal poverty line — $32,800 a year for a single person. The cutoff for current plans, by contrast, is 150% of the poverty line, or $22,000 a year for a single person.
Another immediate change aims to prevent interest from snowballing.
As long as borrowers make their monthly payments, their overall balance won’t increase. Once they cover their adjusted monthly payment — even if it’s $0 — any remaining interest will be waived.
Other major changes will take effect in July 2024.
Most notably, payments on undergraduate loans will be capped at 5% of discretionary income, down from 10% now. Those with graduate and undergraduate loans will pay between 5% and 10%, depending on their original loan balance. For millions of Americans, monthly payments could be reduced by half.
The forgiveness of repayment to some people but not others who have dutifully paid off their loans has always struck me as palpably unfair, not to mention the huge burden this puts on the taxpayers, who will have to cover the billions of dollars in lost repayments.
*Fun article, though from the National Review. Ginger K. reports that a professor at the University of Iowa is worried that the school’s hawk mascot, Herky, is too scary-looking, and his appearance may be “contributing to a culture of violence, depression, and even “suicide.” (h/t Ginger K.)
A professor at the University of Iowa is concerned that the school’s hawk mascot, Herky, looks angry — and its appearance could be contributing to a culture of violence, depression, and even “suicide.”
“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” clinical professor of pediatrics Resmiye Oral, wrote in an e-mail to the school’s athletic department, according to an article in Iowa City Press Citizen.
Oral continues to say that although she believes the school is “doing a great job in that regard when it comes to words,” she’s afraid that all of that is just not going to be enough if the school’s mascot has an angry face
It may sound like a joke to you, but Oral believes that the issue of the mascot’s appearance is not something to be taken lightly — not only because it could it be making some students feel uncomfortable, but also because it might be “conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence.”
Yes, that’s right — although you may think that the mascot bird’s face is just a mascot bird’s face, Oral is here to tell you that it may actually be a vehicle for subliminally instilling violent tendencies into the minds of those who see it.
You have to admit that it takes a Lefty to worry about stuff like this, even if the sarcasm comes from the right. If you want to see that Face That Will Traumatize An Entire University, heeeere’s Herky!!:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili tells a fib:
A: What are you sharpening your claws for?Hili: Let’s say that’s for falling apples.
Ja: Na co ostrzysz pazurki?Hili: Powiedzmy, że na spadające jabłka.
And a photo of the doting Szaron:
From reader Barry. I’m sure I’ve shown this before, but it’s too clever not to show again:
From the MajorGeeks Facebook page:
Retweeted by Masih. The Iranian regime likes to arrest the family of activists just to intimidate them.
Wrestler, Saman Pashaei, the brother of leading Iranian activist @sardar_pashaei has been arrested as the Iranian regime attempt to silence and target athletes.
We call on the #IOC to adequately respond to athlete abuse in #iran @hrw @iocmedia pic.twitter.com/CHY9oE3SyH
— Global Athlete (@GlobalAthleteHQ) July 11, 2023
I found this one, but WHAAAAT?
Fun fact: a chicken can be hypnotized with its head down near the ground, by drawing a line along the ground starting at the beak and extending straight outward in front of the chicken
— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) July 12, 2023
From Barry, who says, “Awwww. . . . . Casper is a . . . . cutie?”
— KOJAMF🤘🧡🤘 (@alfreds74427060) July 8, 2023
From Jez. I’m entirely on the side of the swan!
This Swan is sick of humans riding wakeboards across his lake! 🦢 pic.twitter.com/uvtXeEzJxf
— Wow Animals (@Wow__Animals) July 10, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man who lived but a month in the camp before perishing. Look at that expression!
13 July 1900 | A Frenchman, Rene Bussy, was born in Paris. A railway worker.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 13, 2023
Tweets from the ever-brilliant Professor Cobb. The first one originated with Ziya Tong. What an experience this would be!
I dream of being able to swim with a dreaming whale one day. pic.twitter.com/70XYI5HUE2
— Earthling / 🦣: journa.host/@ziya (@ziyatong) July 12, 2023
One of our beloved optical illusions and PROOF:
Enlarged view pic.twitter.com/0aEyDbmKqX
— Akiyoshi Kitaoka (@AkiyoshiKitaoka) July 12, 2023
I hope you understand this one. If not, go here.
Did a wombat design this pic.twitter.com/YCZ01riQ0K
— Craig Kaplan (@TriggerLoop) July 11, 2023